Camping with toddlers doesn’t have to be stressful. Enjoy the great outdoors with the whole family with a little extra planning – and a dash of flexibility. Here are 6 tips for making camping with toddlers easy and fun.
Preparation and planning make camping trip perfection!
When it comes to camping with the little ones, it’s far better to over-prepare than try to fly by the seat of your pants. It’s crucial to plan ahead if you want to minimize stress and maximize fun. Here are some specific tips to make planning your next adventure smooth and easy:
Checklists are your friend! To ensure that you’ve got everything you need, make a handy checklist and check it twice before you leave.
Do your research. Know before you go – where are you planning to camp? What’s the weather? What supplies should you bring?
Plan with your family in mind. Is the campground safe? Is it remote, or near a busy highway? How are the bathrooms? Is there a pool or playground, and are they well maintained? Some of these questions may be better answered once you’ve actually tried camping for yourself – but always keep safety as a priority in the back of your mind.
Practice, practice, practice!
Make sure your gear is intact, and that you’ve got your plans ready. Try pitching your tent in the living room or backyard and see how it goes for the night. Eat dinner picnic-style on the floor or in the garden.
Let your little one get used to familiar camping activities so that the big day won’t be completely unfamiliar to them. Plus, pretend camping can be just as fun as the real thing – especially when it’s in the comfort of your own living room.
Camping Clothing Tips
Any toddler mom knows that she needs to keep plenty of extra clothes around, just in case. Toddlers are messy creatures, especially when they’re having a ball in the great outdoors. Some important items to add to your toddler’s clothing checklist:
Extra sets of weather-appropriate clothing, just in case.
Extra bathing suit, if you have water activities planned (a nice bathing shirt with SPF built in can be a lifesaver at the lake)
Hats – for both sun and warmth
Extra socks. Always bring extra socks!
Skip the one-piece pajamas for the potty trained toddlers and opt for a comfortable two-piece set instead. You’ll save yourself time and aggravation at the outhouse, trust me!
Don’t forget to bring the fun!
If you have the space, consider packing some fun toys for outdoor activities. Toy trucks, balls, buckets, shovels, chalk, and new books can all be a fun surprise for a toddler who needs to stay busy while you pitch a tent or build a fire. Consider bringing something new they’ve never seen before – it’ll keep their attention close the campsite and prevent them from wandering off into the woods.
Just remember, there’s no need to overdo it. Camping is fun and exciting all in itself. Your kids will probably have more fun digging in the dirt with a stick than they will with any fancy toys, so just stick to a few basics.
Get some cool toddler camping gear
Toddlers have some special needs and require some extra stuff that may be unnecessary for adults. If you plan to frequently camp with young children, you may want to invest in some quality gear that will last the season – and beyond.
If you’re only headed out for the weekend to give camping a try, scour thrift stores or borrow gear from a friend. You can often pick up some specialized equipment from other well-meaning folks for a fraction of the price. Here are some toddler-specific items to make your life easier:
Portable cot or travel bed. A pack-n-play can work for younger toddlers who are used to sleeping in a crib at home.
Travel high chair with tray. Keep the food contained, and out of the dirt.
Sleep sacks for staying warm and cozy at night, or an adjustable sleeping bag.
A portable potty. Skip the scary outhouse and use a handy potable potty instead.
Before heading off into the great unknown, stock up your first aid kit with some extra supplies. Whenever I hike with my toddlers, one of them immediately takes off running and trips over a rogue root – every time. Ouch! Make sure your first-aid kit is well-stocked with toddler-specific essentials, just in case.
Bandages (consider some blister bandages or second skin as well)
Essential medications, including antihistamines and pain relievers
Sunscreen and bug spray
Bug wipes – sting wipes, anti-itch wipes
Antiseptic wipes or wash
Consider adding a jingle bell or “bear bell” to your toddler’s shoes. You can find a nice big one at a craft store and secure it to their laces. This will help keep track of them if they wander a little too far from camp. Also, consider writing your campsite number and phone number on their hands, so they can be easily returned to you if they wander off.
Remember, camping with toddlers is supposed to be FUN.
Even if everything goes according to plan, sometimes camping with kids just won’t live up to your expectations. Try to plan ahead and build some quality recreation time into your plans. And remember, they won’t be toddlers forever. Happy camping!
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